Advertisement

Archive for Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Consolidation group readies for school board conversation

Principals were among folks in the audience for the Monday, Sept. 19, 2011 meeting of the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group. In the front row with her head down was Nancy DeGarmo, principal of New York School, working her iPad. In the back row, to the side of Lawrence school board members Keith Diaz Moore and Rick Ingram, were Principals Cris Anderson, of Kennedy School; Jeanne Fridell, of Woodlawn School; Lesa Frantz, of Pinckney School; and Tammy Becker, of Hillcrest School. Chris Bay, principal of Sunset Hill School, didn't make the picture, as he was sitting off to the side.

Principals were among folks in the audience for the Monday, Sept. 19, 2011 meeting of the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group. In the front row with her head down was Nancy DeGarmo, principal of New York School, working her iPad. In the back row, to the side of Lawrence school board members Keith Diaz Moore and Rick Ingram, were Principals Cris Anderson, of Kennedy School; Jeanne Fridell, of Woodlawn School; Lesa Frantz, of Pinckney School; and Tammy Becker, of Hillcrest School. Chris Bay, principal of Sunset Hill School, didn't make the picture, as he was sitting off to the side.

October 4, 2011

Advertisement

Volunteers asked to study how to close at least two of six schools identified for potential consolidation soon could be asking their elected leaders for advice.

Monday night, members of the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group agreed to form a subcommittee to communicate directly with the Lawrence school board.

The seven-member subcommittee — like the larger working group, to be made up of members representing Cordley, Hillcrest, Kennedy, New York, Pinckney, Sunset Hill and Woodlawn schools — will be empowered to seek board input if:

• The working group wants to vary from its formal charge, which currently calls for consolidating the list of six schools — Woodlawn is excluded — into either three or four within two to three years.

• Conditions change enough to shift assumptions reached when the working group had been envisioned back in February.

“Time has changed,” said Chuck Epp, a Kansas University professor and member of the working group, representing the Cordley community. “There are new facts on the ground.”

Among the key facts: Only three of the board’s seven members had a vote in creating the working group, setting its course and scheduling its planned completion.

Now, nearly six months after four new board members were elected — and three months since they took office — the new majority could get a chance to offer input regarding the working group’s direction before the group’s final recommendations are due by the end of January.

All the working group needs to do is ask, and at least one board member is looking forward to the opportunity.

“It’s hard to see the downside,” said Rick Ingram, who received the most votes in the April board election and has attended the past three meetings of the group as an observer. “I think we need to listen with an open mind to anything they want to talk to us about.”

In addition to agreeing that they would appoint the subcommittee Oct. 17, group members also rejected the concept of appointing an executive committee, at least for now. They also favor making times available for individual group members to make voluntary visits to schools on the consolidation list.

Members also reviewed enrollment data and asked for more numbers to help them consider plans that could call for closing some schools while adding onto others or even building a school or two anew, financed by a bond issue.

But the prospect of closing two schools without adding classrooms elsewhere drew gasps from group members, as they crunched numbers projected on a large screen.

“If that bond doesn’t pass, and we don’t have any money … we don’t see how you can close any of these schools and not make the three, four, five schools around it jump over capacity,” said Sally Kelsey, a representative from the Cordley community. “(Then) there’s no capacity, really, to close a school.”

Comments

honestone 3 years, 2 months ago

After the reckless spending of the past board the chance of a bond passing is....zero!

GMom05 3 years, 2 months ago

Thank goodness the new board members are willing to listen to reason. Sorry Charlie! and Rich, and Scott, and Mary...

Sneakyperson 3 years, 2 months ago

but first we need to finish the football feilds they are the most important thing ever ever!!! with what the school at lawrence high paid per year to rent Haskel they could have played there for well over the next hundred years...and its not falling in on itself from shotty construction and years over due for being finished and an eyesore

IBike100 3 years, 2 months ago

No one in this community should ever vote for a bond issue. There was a reason for the reconfiguration-to build a third high school. It is at the expense of all of our kids K-12.

Cogito_Ergo_Es 3 years, 2 months ago

3rd high school? But what about our MegaMentary!?!?!

George_Braziller 3 years, 2 months ago

There is a push to increase the density of people living downtown and in the adjacent neighborhoods. Yet at the same time the school board is still taking about closing or consolidating the neighborhood schools.

Uhhhhhhh, left hand I would like to introduce you to the right hand. It's about time the two of you finally met.

JayhawkFan1985 3 years, 2 months ago

I must just misunderstand the issue. Childhood obesity is on the rise so our solution is to close schools in the less affluent part of town where kids still can walk or ride their bikes to school while simultaneously subsidizing the suburban sprawl on the west side of town where many kids are compelled to ride a car or bus to school. Does that really make sense? Can't we get a little more creative? Perhaps two smaller elementary schools could share a principal who could split their time between the two schools. If a crisis arises, they would only be minutes away by car.

EJ Mulligan 3 years, 2 months ago

Well said, George. Closing schools in those neighborhoods would destroy property values and expand the student ghetto exponentially. The city needs to have a voice in all of this, or Lawrence will just become the mini-KCMO.

kansanjayhawk 3 years, 2 months ago

They have already proven that smaller class size and more of a "community" atmosphere helps create an atmosphere for good education. Further consolidation is a mistake focus the monies into the classroom and give the teachers a fair wage. Reduce the administrative costs and cut out red tape from education --including federal mandates--and we can get back to the business of reading, writing, and arithmetic!

aryastark1984 3 years, 2 months ago

Um, if you don't attend to federal mandates, you lose money. I was with you until the last two sentences.

nativeson 3 years, 2 months ago

Again, the focus is on smaller schools in older neighborhoods and not the ever growing classroom sizes across the district. There is no evidence the school closings destroy property values. The district must make the difficult choices, and this process will end up in the same place it started, with elected officials doing what they are charged with doing, allocating resources.

The idea that somehow larger schools are being subsidized is simple inaccruate. Look at the costs to run the facility including faculty, and you will find the smaller schools are 25%+ higher per pupil and receive much better student-teacher ratios.

JayhawkFan1985 3 years, 2 months ago

The operational costs may be 25% higher in the smaller schools, but that doesn't factor in the cost to construct the new schools for which the entire school district is paying of the bonds.

New schools are built for rich kids in new parts of town while older schools in established neighborhoods serving poorer kids and ethnicly more diverse kids are closed.

It aint right.

GMom05 3 years, 2 months ago

I think kids are kids, whether they are rich, poor, or "ethnicly more diverse." If the new schools you are referring to are new schools on the west side of town, that is because that is where the growth is and those children needed to attend school somewhere. I haven't heard any board members or administrators mention anything about building new schools on the west side at this time. (Though when the population starts to grow again, they'll realize their mistake in closing WVE.) What they ARE talking about is a new building on the east side of town. You have heard they recently purchased a large piece of land out there, right? What they want to do is close the smaller eastside schools and build a shiny new MEGAmentary with 500 kids in it. That will be for all the rich, poor, or "ethnicly more diverse" children living on the east side to attend. What the administrators and many board members aren't talking about, is keeping all the small neighborhood schools open in USD497 for the benefit of all our children.

aryastark1984 3 years, 2 months ago

It would be lovely if "kids were kids." That just is not reality. The reality is that low SES kids frequently have more educational challenges than kids that come from affluent families. Kids from low income families are more likely to have parents who have not themselves graduated high school, who do do not read at home. Kids from low income backgrounds are less likely to be read to by their parents. These are generalities of course and should not be read to mean that there are not exceptions to these rules.

Unfortunately it takes more time and more effort to bring under prepared kids up to grade level. Those are just the facts. Look at AYP last year. Where did the district miss AYP? The answer is with low income kids. Almost every school with a high % of low income kids under-preformed.

Who did make AYP with low income kids New York, Kennedy, Cordley and Pinkney. What is the common denominator here? These are all small schools with small class sizes.

It just costs more to educate some kids than it does others and the district has a responsibility to educate ALL children.

GMom05 3 years, 2 months ago

My point was that JayhawkFan1985 claimed they are looking to close established neighborhood schools in order to build new buildings for rich kids and I disagree with that statement. If they build a new school it will be to house and educate the very children living in those established neighborhoods, be they rich, poor, or purple. I agree that the district does have the responsibility to educate ALL children and that should also mean that not just the underprepared should get extra time or money spent on them to bring them up to grade level. ALL children, even if they are above grade level, have the right to be taught at their level and to grow, learn, and become accomplished at higher and higher levels, not just those coming from low SES backgrounds, as have been described.
And, yes small schools with small class sizes are more successful with all children. But clearly that is not the driving force here, since they've already gone ahead and closed WVE and have approved the closure of more.

George_Braziller 3 years, 2 months ago

How does closing schools address "the ever growing classroom sizes across the district?" Wouldn't closing a school just move more students into the existing classrooms?

JayhawkFan1985 3 years, 2 months ago

I believe that Langston Hughes was the last elementary school built in the Lawrence. Where is it located? On the west side of town. Who tends to live on the west side of town? Whiter and richer kids. Where are the schools that are being considered for closure located? On the east side of town. Who tends to live there? Poorer kids who are more ethnically diverse.

I think it is mistake to look at what is happening just this year. We need a longer frame of reference here.

I am not claiming that there is racism among our school officials. However, I do think that decisions about where to build and where to close have long term consequences for our community. Schools are part of the community's infrastructure. Closing a neighborhood school can have the consequence of destabilizing a neighborhood. Opening a new school near the edge of the community in newly developing residential subdivisions just encourages more suburban sprawl which I don't think Lawrence should encourage or that Lawrence can afford.

Cogito_Ergo_Es 3 years, 2 months ago

"Opening a new school near the edge of the community in newly developing residential subdivisions just encourages more suburban sprawl which I don't think Lawrence should encourage or that Lawrence can afford."

If that is your opinion then you should speak up at the City and County commission meetings. Because once our leaders vote to approve development in one area or another, it requires certain infrastructure, e.g. schools. I don't understand your complaint about LH. They developed the area, families moved in, and they built a school for those kids. Do you object to the shiny new fire station out there as well?

This is why I object to the building of a new school on the EAST side. There isn't the same growth. They are talking about building it only as a way of housing the children that will be displaced by their plan to close the small neighborhood schools. It is wrong. The small schools are much better for our kids.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.